If it’s tourist season, why can’t we shoot them?

 

After completing 30 in-depth business interviews with local owners, we’ve learned that Lake County’s off seasons have gone from four months a year to roughly a month and a half for most. Although it is difficult to survive without some base of local or regional customers year round, tourism has increased significantly over the past three years, for a variety of reasons. Ski Cooper welcomed over 80,000 skiers this year, more than most in recent history. The Leadville Race Series events have brought and introduced thousands of people to our community, as have the numerous museums and historical draws. There are over 500,000 people within a one-hour drive of Leadville on summer weekends. As visitors have gotten fed up with crowds, high costs and hot weather, we have been a natural draw for those looking for something more unique. The first quarter lodging tax for Lake County in 2018 was up 53 percent over that of last year. Sales tax has grown by over 10 percent/year for the past three years. Despite this realization, many locals still feel a resistance to the increasing numbers of people coming to our community. Perhaps this goes back to our mining heritage, when our neighboring communities turned to tourism as their primary economic driver and we did not, because we had Climax and other mines employing the majority of our community. We have to remember something: most of us started as tourists. Every business owner, homeowner and employee that was drawn to this place has a story and most of them begin with being a tourist that had a positive experience with other locals that made them want to return. The scenery here is great, but the people are what makes or breaks their experience. If Heather Scanlon had not taken the day off to show my wife and me some of the amazing things about Leadville 16 years ago, I would not be writing this article. It was my experience with the people that made us say, “that is who we want to live around and how we want to be.” Beyond that, tourism supports many of the services that we enjoy without requiring the full tax burden that we would have without them. Most communities our size could not dream of having a hospital, professional fire department, or world class recreation facilities and new schools.

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